Classic Rock Climbing: The Ogwen Valley

Over twenty years ago I came to North Wales with the Cadet’s from the school where I did my A-levels. We were on an adventurous training week, based at Capel Curig Camp and to this day driving from Capel Curig to the Ogwen Valley still elicits the same excitement that I felt in the back of that mini bus all those years ago as Tryfan’s East Face came into view along with the Glyders.

Back then we were just scrambling up Tryfan and the Glyders, and back then none of my career advisers had even heard of the job of outdoor pursuits instructor. I think it was on that first trip that I started to ask the right questions of how and why you would go about working in the mountains.

It resulted in me eventually coming to Bangor to study at University and quickly descended into a life long obsession with rock climbing and mountaineering in North Wales. One of the first routes I ever climbed up here was a route on The Idwal Slabs, a stunning 450ft rock staircase. Where sometimes the steps were large enough to accommodate a team but most just enough for a foot or less.

I love the Slabs, but what I love about them the most is the chances I get to introduce people to the sport I know and love on the same routes that grabbed my soul and never let go. Helping someone climb their first multi pitched route is a true privilege.

In the twenty or more years since that first climb here I have written many words about the Ogwen Valley. Most recently a article on how it is a novices playground. Yet still a place where even I can find and have adventures. A few years ago a friend and I climbed Groove Arete at night. It was a truly awesome experience and one that I will never forget.

Alone in a 6ft bubble of light I lead the route slowly and steadily, below me Duncan followed as I belayed. Then on a belay I turned the head torch off to save battery and I am immediately transported back to half way up this 12 pitch mountain route.

It seems like too long ago that I had one of these madcap adventures, a midnight ascent of a classic easy route. Sitting late into the night waiting for the sky glow red as the sun sets. Although saying that I did enchain most of the mountain crags in Ogwen last year.

If you are a trad climber and want to move from single pitch climbing to multi pitched adventures then I can’t recommend Ogwen Valley enough. Whether you start out of Tryfan Back or make your way up the well worn Milestone Buttress or join the masses on the incline of the Idwal Slab. The day out you’ll have will be second to none.

The valley is typified by slab by rock, that is very clean and often reasonably polished, but not enough to be of detriment to the routes, as modern rubber has over come the problem somewhat. Most of the crags are within 20 minutes or less of the road save for the highest cliff that can be approached in around 45 minutes.

A full breakdown of crags in available in Climber this month.

Top Ten Sub-Extreme Ogwen Routes

  1. Faith, Hope and Charity – Any of the these VDiff on the Idwal Slabs are amazing.
  2. Ordinary Route – the trough that leads very easily to the top of Idwal Slabs.
  3. Grooved Arete – A long mountain route on the east face of Tryfan, of which there are few finer VDiffs in the UK.
  4. Direct Route, Rowan Route and Pulpit Route – All classic VD on the Milestone.
  5. Tennis Shoe, Lazarus, Groove Above and Grey Slab/Lost Boot Climb – One of the best link ups of routes in North Wales.
  6. Direct Route (Glyder Fach) – A monumental Hard Severe ┬áthat will leave you gobsmacked when you realise it was climbed in 1909!
  7. Zig-Zag, Flake Crack and Hereford Crack – VS – HVS on Gribin Facet.
  8. Sub-Cniefion Rib and Cniefion Arete – VD and a quieter version of the slabs that leads up towards the base of the fantastic alpine style ridge, which is more of a scramble than a climb.
  9. Marble Slab and other route – Severe – VS on Bochlliwedd Buttress.
  10. Gashed Crag – Another massive VD on the East Face of Tryfan. This one has a bit more character in the form of one chimney.

If you’d like to be guided on a mini enchainment, or be taught how to multi pitch climb or be coached to climb harder. Then I do offer various courses through my other website Snowdonia Mountain Guides.

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